I was impressed to read the proposed Healthcare plan put forward by the President-elect of the United States, Barrack Obama.

The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing healthcare system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan.

The Obama plan will lower health care costs by investing in health information technology, prevention and care coordination.

It intends to promote public health. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings, and will increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Reading about the Obama plan started me thinking about our own health-care system. Given our large population and paucity of funds we cannot really compare our situation with that in the U.S.. Affordable, accessible health-care for all may not be practically possible.

However it would be nice to see what steps our various political parties intend to take in improving health-care in India, if they are elected. Both at the national level and the state level.

In the area of public health the situation is not too bad. Given the large population, programmes like the polio drives are fairly successful.

In Mumbai, and in other Indian cities too, I guess, treatment at the Government hospitals poses many problems. There are queues at every stage- while registering, waiting to see the doctor, getting any pathological or other tests done, etc.

A patient seeking treatment at a government hospital will likely be from the lower income strata. If he is working on daily wages, he will have to forego that day’s work ( and the day’s wages) to seek treatment at the hospital, which will take up the better part of the day. This he can ill afford.

He could go to a Primary Health clinic instead of a hospital, but only very minor illnesses are treated there. For anything more serious, he will be sent to a hospital.

If he has to be admitted as an in-patient, the situation gets worse. Government hospitals are overcrowded, patients sleeping even on the floor. Hygiene in the hospitals is at an abysmally low level.

The hospitals are understaffed, so the doctors and nurses are overworked, affecting the quality of care they can give the patient.

Medicines are often not in stock and the relatives of the patient are sent out to buy them from wherever they are able to find them.

To bring about a change in this situation, increased funding is probably needed, but more importantly- political will is necessary.

Even today, political parties do bring out manifestos before elections- but they are not given wide publicity. Parties should spell out in detail what policies they intend to adopt to improve the situation, not just in health-care but in all areas that affect the common man.

And if elected, hopefully do as they have promised.